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Friday, January 28, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Officials say girl beaten to death

Times Snohomish County Bureau

A 4-year-old Lake Stevens girl who was found dead in her home last week was beaten to death, the Snohomish County Medical Examiner's Office disclosed yesterday.

Sirita Sotelo was reported unconscious the evening of Jan. 21 by a family member living at a residence in Lake Stevens. When deputies arrived, they found the girl dead.

The Medical Examiner's Office said Sirita died from "blunt-force trauma to the head and trunk."

Snohomish County sheriff's detectives say they are investigating, but no one has been arrested.

Sirita lived with her father, John Ewell, 30, and her stepmother, Heather Ewell, 25, and their four children.

The girl's mother, Patricia Sotelo, 40, has been incarcerated in Snohomish County and King County jails since November on unrelated drug charges.

Early on, investigators considered the girl's death a homicide.

Child-welfare officials took the other children living at the home into protective custody.

Three hours before deputies were called to the Lake Stevens house, on the 2500 block of 101st Avenue Northeast, a woman identifying herself as the girl's aunt called the state Poison Control Hotline to report that the girl had licked glue-gun cleaner.

Dr. Bill Robertson, medical director of the Poison Control Hotline, said the girl got "just a taste on the tip of her tongue," adding that it did not sound like a toxic amount.

Poison-control officials advised the aunt to give the girl milk products to neutralize the poison. They made a checkup call to the home around 10:30 p.m., but no one answered.

Deputies were summoned to the house about an hour later, after the 911 call.

Snohomish County sheriff's spokesman Rich Niebusch said investigators are looking into the glue-gun poisoning but have not linked it to the girl's death.

Before living with the Ewells, Sirita was living in foster care, said investigators with the state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS).

The girl moved in with the Ewell family in November 2003, and child-welfare officials no longer had any contact with her, DSHS officials said.

Police say they hadn't been called to the house during the past two years, and the owner of the property, Barry Parducci, said yesterday the parents have been good renters. He leased the property to John Ewell in 1999, he said.

"I've never had any issues with them," he said. "It always seemed they were making an effort to be reasonable tenants."

Parducci said he has not spoken with the family since Sirita's death.

Jennifer Sullivan: 425-783-0604 or jensullivan@seattletimes.com

Christopher Schwarzen: 425-783-0577 or cschwarzen@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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